Welterweight Khamzat Chimaev and Belal Muhammad appear to be on a collision course. But the Swedish fighter has one firm condition which needs to be met before the fight can be made.
He refuses to fight a Palestinian. So Chimaev says he will not face Muhammad in the octagon if he is fighting under a Palestinian flag:
I will fight you if you don't take the Palestinian flag into battle @bullyb170 ☝🏼
— Khamzat Chimaev (@KChimaev) June 9, 2022
Muhammad was born in Chicago but both his parents are from Palestine. He always flies the aforementioned flag when he fights in the octagon but it seems he would be willing to leave it at home for a match with Chimaev.
Muhammad is currently ranked #5 at welterweight. He has won seven out of his last eight fights and the closes thing to a blemish on his recent record was a ‘no contest’ when he was accidentally poked in the eye by Leon Edwards.
Meanwhile Chimaev is ranked #3 and has won five fights out of five for the UFC, picking up bonuses on four separate occasions. It could well be the bout to make but there is clearly an obstacle.
Chimaev is based in Sweden but was born in Chechnya and is a practising Muslim. He clearly supports the Palestinian cause and is not keen to face a fighter who represents the country.
It seems that both men can find some common ground on this issue. Muhammed responded by saying he wasn’t allowed to take the Palestinian flag into the octagon anymore anyway:
Respect bro ..Il bring a flag for you too and we both fight FOR Palestine.. I can’t bring the flag down to battlefield anymore even if I wanted to. But…
دمي فلسطيني 🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) June 9, 2022
Chimaev responded by suggesting that the fight should take place on the October event in Abu Dhabi. Judging from the way these two are interacting on Twitter it definitely won’t be a grudge match.
But it could turn out to be a title eliminator in the welterweight division. Having cruised through his first four fights in the octagon Chimaev actually looked human as Gilbert Burns pushed him hard in a wild war at UFC 273.
He won that fight by decision but had to overcome some serious adversity. Having beaten all of his previous opponents inside two rounds Chimaev found Burns a much tougher proposition.
These two just left it ALL in the Octagon. What. A. Fight 🔥
— UFC (@ufc) April 10, 2022
The Brazilian showed that he can be hurt but Chimaev has still never been beaten. He recently took time off from his training to get married in Chechnya and appears to be targeting an October return.
UFC 281 is set for Abu Dhabi on October 22nd. Four of Chimaev’s six UFC fights have taken place there and he has emerged as a big fan favourite in the Middle East.
Muhammad has only fought in Abu Dhabi once. But he picked up a performance bonus for his efforts after submitting Takashi Sato at UFC 242 in 2019.
This looks like the fight to make in the welterweight division. The flag issue appears to be resolved amicably and it would not be a surprise to see Chimaev and Muhammad matched together on the UFC 281 card.